Designing LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA and ELIAS

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Designing LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA and ELIAS
Mio Infante designs the set of LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA,
a landmark production of Ballet Philippines, which
returns to the Cultural Center of the Philippines this
weekend.

Experiencing the Scenographic Space

by Mio Infante

Republished with permission of the copyright owner

Manila, Philippines--LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA, one of Ballet Philippines' landmark productions, returns to the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (main theater) from Friday, July 25, to Sunday, July 27, to kick off the ballet company's 45th season, and to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Philippine revolutionary hero Apolinario Mabini.

Setting the Scene

In developing a scenic design for dance/physical theater, I took into consideration the choreographic grammar of the author. Agnes Locsin's robust and earthy movements were the key starting points to the scenographic journey.

When the curtain rises, the spectator sees the setting. It should locate the narrative in a specific time and space and provide for the action to take place.

For LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA [which had its world premiere in 1997], the rural countryside of Central Luzon is juxtaposed with the angularity and sharp lines of the pen (as the primary instrument representing the protagonist). A multi-leveled ramp not only alluded to internal conflicts within the three lead characters, but also the struggle for power within the revolutionary top brasses. Aptly, the words of the text/document become the background for events to unfold. A rereading (or rewriting) of history then occurs.

Designing LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA and ELIAS
A scene from the ballet LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA
(Photo: Victor Ursabia)

In ELIAS [which had its world premiere in 1995], it was when he had become delirious because of a gunshot wound. The huge balete tree on the bank of the River Pasig became the stage on which the ghosts of Elias' past revisit him. The powerful image of a hanged man greets the scene. Internal conflict within the character is amplified by the scenographic environment. Bloody red and seemingly covered in varicose veins, the tree seems to have grown out of proportions and overpowers its surroundings. I incorporated these images of concrete slabs being unearthed by the roots. The stability of something solid and grounded, rocked by inevitable forces of nature.

The connection between character, movement and space has always fascinated me.

For both LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA and ELIAS, my main concern was exploring ways on how the dancers could negotiate the physicality of the performance space. The slope of the ramp affected and engaged the body of the dancer. In sort of Brechtian manner, it determined the shifts in the center of gravity of the dance--very much a parallelism to the emotional shifts their characters were going through. With some allusion to the work of Caspar Neher, Brecht's designer, and a postmodern influence of particular "events" in ever performance, the experience each dancer has, every time he/she deals with the topography of the scenographic space, becomes unique. This is translated into a series of notable moments in dance, and hopefully to the viewer/spectator who reads into it, experiences it, and reacts in his own way of understanding the mise-en-scene, sort of a repartee between ideas of "affect-effect".

Designing LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA and ELIAS
Infante's design for ELIAS by Ballet Philippines

What was interesting with working on LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA, was the creative process. I was designing from halfway around the globe, and entrusting the interpretation and reading of the design to Agnes [Locsin], who was orchestrating the entire piece to others in the creative team. It was two years later [in 1998], after the piece had been seen around the world, when I got to see it restaged.

LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA, inspired by Apolinario Mabini's written work of the same name, is an original full-length ballet production by Ballet Philippines, choreographed by Agnes Locsin, featuring libretto by Dennis N. Marasigan, music by Ryan Cayabyab, and set design by Mio Infante.

ELIAS, on the other hand, was inspired by Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal's novel "Noli Me Tangere," choreographed by Agnes Locsin, featuring libretto by Dennis N. Marasigan and set design by Mio Infante.

For tickets to LA REVOLUCION FILIPINA running in Manila this weekend, visit ticketworld.com.ph or call (632) 832-3704

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